Monday, January 28, 2008

a good day to stay inside

So not Jamaica. This is the view from the sunroom today. We are in the midst of a blizzard. It's causing lots of havoc with travel of any sort around here.

Yesterday was a balmy 4 degrees C (about 40 F) with no wind. It felt like spring! There was another fun match at the local dog club and they had to put buckets all around as the melting snow was leaking through the roof in lots of places.

After the blizzard ends, we can expect brutally cold temperatures for the next few days. The forecast for tomorrow is a windchill of -41 (that's about the same temp. for both C andF)! Definitely not spring.

Good thing that Pocus' and Bentley's new coats came in today's mail!
I didn't feel like freezing my fingers to take a picture of them outside so they are modeling the coats indoors. They're not very obedient models. All they wanted to do was play. These coats were custom made for them by Patrice of Sweet Blessings Boutique on Etsy. They are very well-made and Patrice is great to do business with! She also sells adorable children's clothing on her Etsy and eBay sites.

I'm still waiting for my knitting machine to come in the mail. The fair isle attachment was delivered on Friday but not the knitting machine itself. One would think that two packages mailed at the same time would be delivered at the same time but Canada Post apparently doesn't agree so the attachment is just teasing me until I can play with it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

aahh, Jamaica!

I thought I'd share a little taste of Jamaica for those of us wintering in the cold. Geoff brought back these pictures from his two-week holiday in Negril earlier this month. Lucky boy...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Portuguese, eh?

The title is a weak attempt at a segue. Last week I talked about Katie handling a Portuguese Water Dog and today I'm talking about Portuguese knitting. Like I said, weak. But a segue nevertheless. No pictures for you today but there are a lot of links.

I have trouble with my hands hurting when I knit at times. Sock knitting seems to be exempt from the pain, thank goodness, but any knitting with heavier yarns or larger needles eventually hurts. Because of this, I've learned to hold my needles and yarn in as many ways as possible to reduce the repetitive strain on my hands. My preferred knitting style is to tension the yarn in my right hand and hold the right needle like a pencil. This way I can knit quickly as I just flick the wrap without moving my hand too much. I think that it might be called a lever action. It's quite similar to Yarn Harlot's style in this video but I have the yarn coming off of my forefinger when I do it. The biggest problem with this knitting style is that it's not comfortable holding the needle this way to do 2 circs or magic loop for making socks. Double points are much more comfortable.

I can knit Continental but it's not my favorite method. For some reason I end up with dropped stitches unless I am very careful. Continental purling is a hassle too so I learned Norwegian purl (further down the page on the same site) and that is better. Learning Continental knitting has been a real benefit for stranded knitting as I can hold each color in separate hands so it's quick.

I came across a reference to Portuguese knitting and googled it to find this video for knitting and this one for purling. I gave it a try by wrapping the working yarn around my neck and just using regular knitting needles. It's actually very easy to do and the yarn is tensioned easily. I would have to practice it a lot more to be able to knit quickly but it's a nice addition to the repertoire to give my hands a break. It would be interesting to try to teach kids this method when they're first learning to knit. I think that some kids would find it easier than dropping the yarn and having to find it again for each stitch. Tension is always an issue when kids are learning. I don't even show them how to wrap the yarn around their fingers until they are pretty proficient knitters. It just confused them at first.

I spent the last few days sorting through my stash and taking pictures so that I would have record of it. My sock yarn stash is absolutely ridiculously out of hand. I can't even organize my pics on Ravelry as I exceeded my Flickr download capacity for the month before I got through even a portion of the stash. I told Dan to smack me upside the head if I order any more sock yarn. I am not posting any pics of my yarn spread out all around the family room as I was organizing it. It would be too embarrassing.

I also ordered a knitting machine. Gulp! The plan is to make sweaters on the machine and add finishing touches by hand. Hopefully that will allow me to use up some of my stash of DK, worsted, and aran weight yarns without being disabled by sore hands. I'm sure that there will be a huge learning curve before I can make anything but it will be fun to play around with. I have been doing a lot of research about knitting machines and decided to get a Studio LK-150 from this company in Toronto. The price was right, shipping was free, and I don't have to worry about duty. It should be here in a week or so. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

plant 'roids?

Remember this sweet little Narcissus plant from my Jan. 3/08 blog post?

Well, here it is today, twelve days later....
I don't have a green thumb. In fact, I have been known to kill house plants in less than a week. This one either really likes me or is plotting to take over the world, one kitchen window at a time.

Knitting news today: not much. I'm still plugging away on Dan's new sock in the overdyed yarn. Third-sock-syndrome isn't fun and exciting.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday Fun Match

One of the local dog clubs put on a Fun Match yesterday afternoon. A Fun Match is like a practice dog show and it's a good way to introduce puppies to showing and to remind dogs that haven't been in the ring for a while what we do at shows. I took Bentley and my sister Darcie and niece Katie went with their sheltie Kai.

Some friends asked us to help handle their Portuguese Water Dogs. Katie handled Fontaine all the way to Best Graduate In Match!! The girl is a natural and we are so proud of her! The above pics show Katie and Fontaine with owner Dawn and judge Val.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

time to dye

School started yesterday. It feels strange not to be going. I am 49 years old and I started kindergarten when I was 5. I went to university right out of high school and started teaching right out of university. I have gone to school for 44 consecutive years except for 4 months that I stayed at home with Geoff when he was a baby. I have to admit it's a good thing that I am on med. leave. I'm exhausted and even the thought of going back to school makes me tired. I miss the people though and dreamed about being at school on Sunday night.

The upside is that I had time to putter with the dyes yesterday. The photo shows the skeins drying in the laundry room. The top skeins are merino/silk sock yarn that takes the dye beautifully! It's my new favorite dyeing yarn. The skein furthest right will be made to match a summer outfit that I love. The rest will be reskeined and added to my Etsy shop. The bottom rack shows Dan's sock and a skein of "superwash" merino that I made to match. I tried to duplicate the color of the knitted sock, failed, and overdyed both. I'm quite happy with the results and will start knitting the mate as soon as I get the yarn wound.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

friendly neighborhood gargoyle

Several months ago, we noticed that one of the homes in the neighborhood had a new circular driveway and a pedestal in the front yard. Soon a large gargoyle had been mounted on the pedestal. It seemed like a strange choice to me. The house is a regular bi-level in a regular neighborhood on the outskirts of a regular prairie city; the gargoyle seemed more suitable for a large building in a large urban setting.

Then the gargoyle began entertaining all who passed his way.
From donning feather boas to shades and ties, this dude has amused me almost every day. He dressed for our local pro football team games by wearing the team jersey and painting his face. He wore a Hallowe'en costume.

Here he is in his Christmas duds.
Clearly, the homeowners have a great sense of humor!

In other news, yesterday was an exciting day in several ways. We saw our son off to two weeks in Jamaica with his birth father and family. He was one pretty excited guy! What a wonderful extended family he has found in his birth parents! Both are bright, personable, and caring people and between both families, Geoff has five younger half-siblings. I was always a little sad that he was an only child and am glad that he has more family now. I'm sure that he will have lots of news and pics from his holiday to share with us.

Here is his youngest little sister at the airport enjoying her chocolate milk while waiting for the flight yesterday. Who wouldn't be happy to add this little cutie to the family?

The other excitement from yesterday wasn't nearly as much fun as Geoff's trip. We have been battling a mice infestation in our house this fall. I don't know where the little suckers are getting in but they invited all their friends and relatives to Chez Zivec Mouse Inn. I read in the newspaper that mice are a problem for a lot of people this year because the last two mild winters have allowed the mouse population to get out of hand. A pacifist by nature, I started the battle against the meeses by buying one of those no-suffering traps that uses a battery to zap the critter instantly and painlessly. It cost a lot of money and doesn't work very well. When it became apparent that the mice were pretty much laughing at my efforts to rid the house of them, we put down regular mouse traps. Most of the time the mice ate the Cheez Whiz out of the traps without springing them. These are obviously not your basic stupid mice.

I thought Carmen's cat might help us out but I don't think that mild-mannered kitty would kill a mouse if it ran over him. We were forced to contact an exterminator who provided us with rigid plastic traps that the mice could enter to get the poisoned bait stuff but that the pets couldn't get in to. I have to admit that this method works pretty well and the mouse population in our house is much smaller now. However, the mice don't just eat the bait and neatly exit the traps. They pulverize the bait and spread it around as a fine powder.

Last night, Dan took the bin of dog food out of the broom closet in the kitchen to take it downstairs to refill it and left the closet door open while doing so. Unbeknownst to us, the mice had made a big mess of the poison bait in the back of the closet. I saw Pocus sucking in the warfarin as fast as his little mouth could eat it. The only other dog around the kitchen at the time was Austin so I didn't know if he got some too.

I immediately grabbed the bottle of hydrogen peroxide and dosed both dogs to induce vomiting. Then I phoned the emergency vet on call. She asked if I had any activated charcoal. I had attended a pet first aid course in 1995 so I dug out the first aid kit that I had purchased at the time and sure enough, there was charcoal. Following her directions, I made a charcoal slurry and forced it down both dogs' throats. What a mess! But worth it. I went to the vet clinic today for Vitamin K treatment to administer to the dogs for the next three weeks. It seems we are out of the woods, thank goodness!

If you are a dog owner I would strongly advise you to have hydrogen peroxide and charcoal on hand. I'm sure that being able to quickly use both products made the difference in this situation.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thanks for the support!

Wow!! Thanks for all the comments and emails about my sock woes! They don't seem quite so tragic in the light of day today. I've decided to dye another skein to knit a mate for the sock that didn't shrink. If it's not a perfect match that's okay. As for having to knit another great big sock again, I keep telling myself that I LIKE knitting. All will be fine.

Several folks suggested that I knit another sock to match the felted one for a second pair. The felted sock is pretty pathetic and would need some work to fit anyone's foot. A couple of people suggested other uses for it and I will mull over my options when I hate that sock a little less intensely. Making it into a case for something sounds like a good idea. Dan got a new iPod for Christmas and I'm sure it could use a case.

Again, thanks everybody!

P.S. April Dawn kindly sent along a kid-bit. Check out her comment on this post.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

that's it, I'm packing it in!

Witness. Dan's socks. Dan's humongous socks. Custom fit to a tee. They were supposed to be a Christmas gift. They were finished on New Year's Day. Notice the color difference. Should have been a clue. Apparently I'm not a very good detective. I blithely thought that I had not mixed up the dyes in the dyepot very well. Didn't matter. Dan wanted them for warm winter house socks.
They are warm.
They were beautiful.
They were superwash merino.

One skein was superwash merino.
The other, not so much.
Note: Knit Picks DK Merino felts beautifully in my front-load Maytag washer.
It's enough to make a Knitter cry. I am so disgusted at myself! How could I have screwed this up so royally?! You can bet I'll be checking the ball bands very, very, very carefully from now on before the wool gets dyed.
I am a lady but the words in my head just now would be very censored. OH CRAP!!! I don't even want to knit anymore. But I will.
(See the look in Bentley's eye in the first photo - even he knew!)

On to cheerier things....

My good friend Rhonda the Knitter gifted this little Narcissus plant to me on New Year's Eve. It bloomed today, sweet thing, a lovely New Year omen!

Freakin' socks.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

internet woes

Happy New Year!

I'm still here but my internet access has been hit-and-miss since Christmas. Actually, it's been more miss than hit. When I do get internet connection, it's slow, slow, slow. Email is still coming through, thankfully. You would think that I would have a lot more time to do other things but I still sit at the computer and optimistically wait for pages to download although they time out more often than not. Apparently I am pitifully addicted to the internet. I sort of remind myself of the derelict nicotine addicts who light up old cigarette butts that have been left by others. Grasping at straws, so to speak.

Anyway, I have a service technician coming on Thursday so will do a much more interesting blog post as soon as possible.